Oh Megapixels…

People newer to using digital cameras tend to fall in love with having a big number of megapixels, but what are they really paying for?  Truthfully, not much.  Megapixels only have two real benefits:  Printing and cropping.  More megapixels will give you clearer prints at larger sizes and gives you better results when cropping an image.  That’s pretty much it, and the average consumer isn’t going to be making large prints or doing much cropping and editing of their point and shoot photos.  I think point and shoot users would get a lot better images if the manufacturer limited the small sensor megapixel amount to something around 6MP and stopped putting 16MP on pea sized sensors since the consumer would get way better dynamic range from their shots then… That being said, this is not going to be another noise and dynamic range argument.  For a good read on that, check this article out: http://cyberphotographer.com/megapixelmyth/

The point I have to make is something that photographers don’t often think about and something I learned in the switch from a D40 to a D7000.  Going from 6MP to 16MP teaches you a lot about lenses and your own technique.  There were a lot of complaints about the D7000 producing soft images and back focusing.  Admittedly, I have some horribly misfocused shots that I’ve taken on my D7000, mostly from the outermost sensors in situations that don’t favor AF.  Also the cross type ones are in the center and are much more accurate so I should have used a focus and recompose technique.  That aside, I felt like my D7000 images had less sharpness for a while and I thought it was related to backfocus so I played around with the AF Fine Tune with inconsistent results…

The truth is it’s the megapixels.  When I used my 35 1.8 on my 6MP D40, I couldn’t tell a sharpness difference between f/1.8 and f/4 everything was razor sharp due to the fewer amount of megapixels.  With the D7000 I can tell the difference between the sharpness of my focus point depending on aperture.  I used to shoot wide open all the time on the D40 and everything was amazingly sharp.  Those images that didn’t look so sharp that I was talking about in the previous paragraph?  All of them were shot on whatever the widest aperture was for the lens I was using at the time.  This caused my images to look softer than I was used to.  I learned that on the D7000 I have to be much more cautious with my aperture because the 16MP sensor will show both the difference in sharpness depending on aperture and when I’ve made a mistake in my technique and lost completely accurate focus from movements or shake.  Because of it, I have to pay more attention to my position a lot more because if I’m shaky I will not get a sharp looking shot in the same way as the D40 with it’s fewer megapixel sensor sometimes would have given me.  Also because of the sensor quality, I know that my shots at f/1.8 with my 85mm 1.8 are not going to be as sharp as f/2.8, which wont be as sharp as f/4. Having more megapixels and a sensor capable of showing me these things has been enlightening after so much time with the D40.

In short, megapixels matter because they can show you more than you’d realize without them.  Sure you’re not likely to get the same revelation from a 16MP point and shoot since the sensor/lens combo on that wont be able to resolve the same level of detail but when you’re coming from something relatively small to a body that’s nearly maximizing the potential of the size format then you will start to see those differences.  If you’re like me and are stepping up from an older Generation 1 Nikon with 6MP to a mid to upper-mid range Generation 2 Nikon with 16MP then you will likely notice the same thing!


Megapixels: They actually do matter, but not for what you think. | 2012 | Photography | Comments (0)

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